COVID-19 Scams: County Trustee announces launch of local consumer financial protection


Star Staff Reports

MEMPHIS — Regina Morrison Newman, Shelby County Trustee announced today the launch of local consumer financial protection planning efforts in partnership with the national nonprofit organization the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund) and the Annie E. Casey Foundation on July 1.
A grant will allow Shelby County to plan a communications campaign to raise consumer awareness of and protect residents from COVID-19 related scams, and plan for broader consumer financial protection capabilities within the county in the coming months.
“I’m pleased to add consumer financial protection to our arsenal of programs to help Shelby County residents improve their financial footing which include the Greater Memphis Financial Empowerment Center, Bank on Memphis, and Project HOME. We received word of this grant just as COVID-19 hit, so we decided to do battle with COVID-19 related scams as our initial project. People are more vulnerable than usual right now due to the pandemic. We want to make them aware of trending COVID-19 scams to avoid additional financial or emotional stress. We will be convening a task force to strengthen consumer financial protection in this county,” said Newman.
Shelby County joins Chattanooga; Detroit, Mich.; Philadelphia, Penn.; and St. Paul, Minn., as the second cohort of the CFE Fund’s Local Consumer Financial Protection Initiative, which supports local governments across the country in developing and enhancing their capacity to offer their residents consumer financial protection and empowerment.
Shelby County will work with the CFE Fund to plan for a local consumer protection agency, which will strengthen local citizens’ financial empowerment by protecting consumer assets through licensing, regulation, enforcement, mediation, and outreach and education.
Shelby County has received $10,000 as a planning grant, paired with a nine-month technical assistance engagement partnership, to plan for a local consumer financial protection initiative. This process will include a structured approach to identifying critical local consumer issues, convening key stakeholders, and surveying the legal landscape to aid the development of an actionable strategic plan.
“It is an unfortunate reality that predatory actors look to take advantage of vulnerable people during times of crisis like the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Examples of scams, frauds, deceptive advertising, and price gouging are already occurring across the country,” said Jonathan Mintz, CFE Fund President and CEO, “Local governments have a critical role to play in protecting residents’ hard-earned assets, and we are thrilled to partner with Trustee Newman on this important work.”
In 2017, with the support of both the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the CFE Fund selected four cities through the Local Consumer Financial Protection Initiative to build out their own consumer financial protection offices within their mayors’ administrations. These cities (Albuquerque, N.M.; Denver, Colo.; Nashville; and Salt Lake City, Utah) have each successfully launched their efforts, developing consumer complaint infrastructure, identifying enforcement priorities, and pursuing legislative reforms.